The federal government has initiated a review of travel advice and public health safety measures related to COVID-19.
The action, it was learned, followed concerns raised by travelers over exorbitant fees being paid for COVID-19 tests at Nigerian airports and allegations of extortion and other unsound practices.
According to a press release from Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) on Monday, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 is expected to announce an updated travel advisory soon.
The Nigerian government requires passengers who show negative PCR test results before boarding a plane traveling to Nigeria, to also pay for the COVID-19 PCR repeat tests that would be carried out on them upon arrival in the country. Travelers are required to use the travel portal, pay for the repeat test at any private lab of their choice, and proceed with the test.
But many passengers, especially Nigerians, who have arrived in the country since international flights resumed, tell stories of extortion and outright fraud perpetrated by government officials overseeing the enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines in the Lagos and Abuja international airports.
“We acknowledge the concerns expressed by Nigerians regarding the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP), COVID-19 testing before and after arrival in Nigeria. We would like to clarify some of these concerns:
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“While the NITP site is hosted on the NCDC domain, all funds for testing purposes are disbursed through the bank to accredited private laboratories. No funds from private testing are received by NCDC. COVID-19 testing at government labs remains free for public health purposes. Tests for personal use such as travel are paid for by individuals to be performed in private laboratories.
“The NITP was developed by the private sector and is run by Nigerians in the public sector as one of many measures introduced to limit the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in our country. Despite the challenges in the functionality of the site, mainly related to payments using foreign cards, we have continued to work extremely hard for its improvement.
He added that “current travel advisory and public health security measures are under review by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and will be updated shortly.
“In the meantime, the NCDC continues to fulfill its mandate, including a strong response to COVID-19 and other concurrent outbreaks in Nigeria.”